How to Start Tomato Farming

Tomato is one of the most important cooking ingredient in the county. Ninety percent of our food is never complete without tomato. We use it in cooking stews, soups, salads, portages, and virtually every food imaginable in the land. It goes with everything, so much that none of our traditional foods ever rejected tomato. 

Benefits of Growing Tomato

Health - This wonderful fruit berry is an excellent source of good amount of vitamin C and beta-carotene. Tomatoes deep redness mean it's a very good source of antioxidant agents. It's a powerful source of vitamin E and enhance the health and sharpness of the eyes. You can never go wrong with tomatoes as far as nutrition and health is concerned.

Tomatoes Farming
Tomatoes freshly harvested | Photo credit: Cindy Bernat
Profit - The market is always there for tomatoes in Nigeria. Why not? A product that is consumed by close to 200 million people, no amount you produced that will ever going to be enough. In 2012, Nigeria imported 65,809 tonnes of processed Tomato that worth over N11.7 Billion. That was in addition to the massive tonnes produced locally in the North. Tomatoes alone takes out over N100 billion annually from Nigerians!

What exactly are Nigerians doing that a whooping amount of N11.7 billion has to go to another countries economy for a product that does very well in almost every Nigerian soil? This is a question we need to ask ourselves as we prepare for this year's farming season.

If you have N3 million and you invested it in tomato farming this season, you will triple that investment within nine months.

How to Grow Tomatoes 

Tomato farming is very simple. Anyone can do it in any capacity, either in the backyard or in commercial quantity. Growing tomato is much more rewarding than you could ever imagined. Tomato can be grown round the year, especially in places like Kano where there is irrigation system specifically made for it. In other places, it is best cultivated during the rainy season.

Step 1: (Pick up The Best Species) - The improved yield specie is the best
High Yield Tomato Variety
The high yield tomato variety | Photo credit: Testi-Lee
choice for farmers, do not pick the local species. In this case, I will recommend the Roma variety. The Roma tomato known for it's size and redness is a plum tomato very popular in the Nigerian markets. This specie can be used both for canning and producing tomato paste. It is also commonly found in supermarkets in some countries like the United States. Roma tomatoes are also known as Italian tomatoes, it is also called Italian plum tomatoes.

What makes Roma specie very unique is it's long shelf life, it's hard back, and low water content which enables it to last longer after harvest. A paint rubber of the seed cost about N4,500

Step 2: (Prepare The Nursery)  - This can be done around March/April when the rain is just beginning in most parts of the country. You can use your backyard for the nursery or any other piece of land the is suitable for it. Tomatoes does very well in most soil types in Nigeria but better in a black loose loamy soil. Prepare the ground by clearing the grasses and rubble, loosen the soil with hand trowel and hoes.

Remove the seeds from the tomatoes and spread it on the prepared soil. You can cover it with dry grasses to prevent the lose of moisture from the soil and prevent birds ants fowls from eating off the tomato seed.

Within 5-7days you will see it germinating. Wait till about another five days before you remove the dry grasses to allow for proper growth. Leave it for another one month before transplanting.

Step 3: (Transplant to The Garden/Farm) - The final journey will be moving it into the permanent farm where they would grow to maturity and production.

If your farm is too big that you can't do the transplanting alone, hire laborers according to your need. You need to be careful with the tender plan to avoid breaking it. Transplant is best done with hands for better results.

Open the soil with piece of small wood, insert the seedling into the hole and cover it with lose soil. Tomato plan is very tender and fragile, it is best transplanted the same day you uprooted it from the nursery to avoid dehydration and fatigue.

Step 4: (Weed and Apply Fertilizer) - After two months from transplant, it will be time for weeding. Hire laborers to do the weeding while you supervise to ensure that your tomato plants are not damaged during the process of removing weeds.
Tomato Farming
Tomato Orchard with ripped Tomatoes | Photo credit: RIF Garden

After the first weed, it will be time to apply fertilizer to help replenish the soil nutrients taken by the weeds. To grow successfully, tomatoes need nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, potash, calcium, and magnesium, along with other trace minerals. It’s always best to have your soil tested to check for nutrient levels and pH level.

Use fertilizer that supply those vital nutrients - N-P-K ratio fertilizer can be very good for tomatoes. See types of fertilizers that are very good for tomatoes.

Step 5: (Harvest Your Tomatoes) - Tomato is harvested in matches, the moment you starts harvesting, you'll continue on weekly basis till the end of the season, usually it will keep producing till the dry season when the plant will die off due to the scorching heat.

The first harvest starts within three months after planting. That means if you plan by April, you should be expecting your first harvest to start by June/July. From then, it will continue till November/December.

Step 6 (Market Your Tomatoes) - It is important to prepare your marketing well ahead of harvesting. Look for who or where to supply the product. This is because, tomato is a perishable product unless you have built storage system.

Mile 12 is the major market for fresh tomatoes and other vegetables in Lagos. Its purely dominated by the Northerners who majors in this farming, harvesting cash over the years. Why? 90% of vegetables consumed in Lagos are brought in from the North. Virtually nothing is produced in the. South West, South East and South South. Lagos alone has over 15,000,000 million people consuming tomatoes almost on daily basis. So, you can see the potential in the farming business.

There is need for smart entrepreneurs to see the opportunity for big business and big money in this sector. We have gotten to the point where we need young savvy entrepreneurs to break into this sector and start producing and delivering quality, hygienic tomatoes at very affordable price.

The mass market remains the key to success in Agribusiness and I would rather sell 1,000 basket a day for N2,000 each than sell just 100 basket a day for N5,000 per basket. The money is in the mass market and we need to start seeing it that way and working that way. Produce more, sell less amount, and make more money.

If you start preparation now for this venture, you will harvest cash all season. Feel free to ask questions using the comment section and contribute your knowledge to help us all grow in this tomato farming business .


  1. Valuable information ..I am delighted to read this article..thank you for giving us this useful information. Great walk-through. I value this post.


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